Statement from MEA President Steven Cook on Muskegon Heights School Restructuring Plan

EAST LANSING, Mich., Wed., May 30, 2012 – The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steven Cook in response to Muskegon Heights Emergency Manager’s plan to turn the school district into a charter school district.
“Emergency Manager Don Witherspoon’s ruthless takeover of Muskegon Heights Public Schools is an unimaginable attack on democracy and public education. In one swift secretive move, he’s robbed the community of their neighborhood schools, ended the career of more than 85 staff members, and sold the education of Muskegon Heights students to the lowest bidder. In his unlimited power as an emergency manager, he’s stripped voters of a voice in their children’s education—so much for parental choice.
“Students, staff and the Muskegon Heights community are paying the price for the financial mismanagement of the district—yet they had no part in creating the mess. Providing a quality education for the students has always been the primary goal of the staff, yet now they’re being told their services are no longer needed. And the staff found out about their terminations through the media since the Emergency Manager didn’t have the decency to tell them to their faces.
“The staff’s dedication and professionalism is being replaced with a for-private charter school management company whose only goal is to make a profit. Within four days, these management companies are to submit a bid to take over the school district. How can anyone trust that the company will have the best interest of students and the community in mind when research shows that charter schools don’t perform any better than traditional schools and spend less money on instruction than their traditional counterparts?
“It’s preposterous to think that any reputable company can develop a sound, comprehensive educational plan that addresses the specific K-12 needs of the Muskegon Heights community in four days. This impossible timeline only reinforces the inadequacy of this plan and the educational quality that the community can expect from the for-profit charter selected.
“The Muskegon Heights restructuring plan devised by the Emergency Manager sets a dangerous precedence. It signals more of the Republican’s agenda to destroy public education by turning it over to private companies and using taxpayer dollars to do it. It comes on the heels of Republicans stripping public schools of needed funding and turning the money over to CEOs.
“We will continue our support for the dedicated Muskegon Heights staff who still remain committed to their students despite these shameful circumstances. We hope that Michigan voters will see this power grab as an end to democracy and fairness and voice their opposition at the ballot box in November.”

CONTACT: Doug Pratt, Director of Public Affairs, 517-896-4465